Angry HAL Replies To ex-Navy Chief’s ‘Dhruv’ Attack

Admiral Arun Prakash & an Indian Navy Dhruv

An angry HAL has responded to Livefist‘s launch episode of #LivefistTalks, a new YouTube interview series. The inaugural episode, an interview with former Indian Navy chief Admiral Arun Prakash, went live yesterday, and included scathing unsparing words on HAL’s performance with naval helicopter requirements.

Speaking about HAL’s move to push the Dhruv helicopter to meet the Indian Navy’s shipborne naval utility helicopter (NUH) requirement after 30 years of non-compliance, Admiral Prakash, a decorated fixed-wing aviator, called HAL ‘lethargic, deadbeat’, a company that had ‘failed to show initiative’ and one that deserved a ‘rap on the knuckles’. The full 30 minute interview, which includes his comments on the naval Dhruv (at 22:40 mark) is here:

Responding to Admiral Prakash’s comments to Livefist, HAL reached out with an angry statement.

The weapons trials on ALH Navy were completed successfully, certified and cleared for for use by the navy. However automatic blade folding was never promised or attempted on ALH. HAL cannot be blamed for things it did not promise. It is wrong to use words like lethargic etc. because technological initiatives call for in-house funding etc. Without firm visibility of how the money spent would result, it is difficult for any company to take initiative. Easy for retired persons to talk and give endless commentary,” HAL spokesperson Gopal Sutar said.

The Indian Navy’s NUH program looks to procure 111 shipborne helicopters to replace the old fleet of Chetak/Alouette III. Planned as the ambitious first program under India’s Strategic Partnership (SP) rules, the program lifted off early 2019 with an expression of interest from the MoD, and, at last count, three companies in the fray. As it stands, the program is positioned as a contest between the Airbus H135M (in a tie up with Mahindra Aerospace & Defence), Sikorsky S-76D (in a tie-up with Tata) and a navalised version of the Kamov Ka-226T.

In January this year, it emerged that Indian Navy veteran and former Chief of the Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) Vice Admiral Raman Puri, who had been hired by the MoD’s Department of Defence Production as a consultant, had objected to the NUH program even considering foreign helicopters when HAL’s Dhruv is readily available. This sparked a series of reports on why the Dhruv was being ‘ignored’.

Even before the Dhruv, HAL had a finger in the NUH via Kamov’s pitch for the navalised Ka-226T. The standard version of the helicopter is to be built by an HAL-Russian Helicopters joint venture at a facility in Tumakuru, Karnataka, though the final lap to close the deal has remained elusive for over 2 years now. While the NUH is configured under the Strategic Partnership model to build manufacturing capacity in the private sector, HAL remains plugged into the program through Kamov’s technical bid, which began as a pitch in April 2018.

A Dhruv mock-up with foldable tail boom

In February 2019, at the Aero India show in Bengaluru, HAL unveiled an ALH Dhruv with a foldable tail boom for shipborne ops, a clear sign that it hadn’t given up on trying to persuade the Indian Navy to accept the platform. HAL has said it will have a foldable blade solution ‘soon’, but the Indian Navy isn’t enthused.

Last month, Commander K.P. Sanjeev Kumar, a former naval helo pilot & commentator on matters military, wrote in a blog for Times of India, “To be sure, the ALH is yet to meet its own 35 year-old naval staff qualitative requirements (NSQRs) in key areas such as range and endurance, blade folding, stowed dimensions, aircraft availability and serviceability. These are non-negotiable specifications for helicopters that operate for extended duration at sea. The navy did not stumble upon this non-compliance yesterday or in last Aero India air show. This has been the case from the time the Dhruv first took to sea. Even today, the naval ALH is not a platform of choice for a naval warship proceeding out of harbourThe ALH is a wonderful machine. Indian Navy’s two decade ‘social distancing’ from this helicopter was not out of any bias, but out of fundamental incompatibilities. The lessons from this experience must shape our decisions for the future.” (Quote used with permission)

HAL’s irritation is understandable, given it sees the NUH as firm door-slam on any future for the naval Dhruv, and therefore a waste of its belated investments in improving it to meet the Indian Navy specifications baseline requirements for shipborne operations. Last month, the officer quoted above also detailed HAL’s proposal for a 2-segmented blade folding mechanism.

On HAL’s rebuttal, Commander Kumar told Livefist, “Capabilities developed by HAL cannot be created overnight in the private sector by waving a magic wand of Strategic Partnership. It is a baby step. Only time will tell how it turns out for the navy. SP has Cabinet Committee on Security approval. It should be allowed to move along desired lines of building additional capacity in civil sector. There’s no replacement for HAL in the short to medium term. HAL and Indian Navy should continue to remain engaged fruitfully. Both must work on improving synergy while fixing internal flaws. I believe the existing order for 16 additional ALH Mk-3 gives both sides an excellent opportunity to sit across the table and find credible solutions for the ‘last mile connectivity’ issues dogging naval ALH. If we succeed, it will also give navy more options for the future. Blame game helps nobody.”

Livefist has reported before that the Indian Navy has ambitious plans with the NUH, calling for fielded platforms to be capable of sub-surface targeting.

Also read: In 18 Months, HAL’s Sharp Light Utility Helicopter Will Be Ready

12 thoughts on “Angry HAL Replies To ex-Navy Chief’s ‘Dhruv’ Attack”

  1. Glad Adm. Prakash raise the point of the Kaveri Engine and also his other points about Atma Nirbharta. His comparison with what the Chinese have been doing is totally spot on.

    I so do hope we hang it there and ensure the engine happens.

  2. Instead of indulging in blame game, both Navy & HAL should sort out the differences to meet the Navy’s pressing requirements. After all, the need & desire for the end result can’t be different for the two viz user & supplier

  3. Although HAL may get irked by Adm Arun Prakash’s statement ,they are conveniently forgetting that it was this same man who issued a letter of intent (LoI) for the ALH back in 1994 based on which Navy made an on account payment of 288 crore for 6 ALH SP Approx 48 lakhs more than the negotiated amount.
    Blade folding for a max diameter of 5.3 meters was always a part of the Naval NSQRs and We have funded HAL for the same through the WSI project and Navy had supported it through funding at various stages.
    With the Naval ASW requirement the endurance of the ALH was a mere 30 minutes and it never suited Navy’s requirements ab-initio which has also been brought out by Cdr KP Sajeev.

    Needless to say HAL is a behemoth which is not letting the Indian Aerospace industry move ahead and expects a raw deal in every project. Their lesser spoken about their QA the better. Adm Arun Prakash does not mince words and I stand by his conviction.

  4. cannot believe such nonsense going on, It is about time get rid off all PSU defense cos. No wonder the all the Bhaji pav use less employees like to go on strike, I would shut the plant, let them stay out for good.
    No wonder HAL products, cant give away to friendly countries.
    Cannot make a decent rifle after all this yrs. Nepal said take them back.
    But a small mickey mouse Gulf nation with population less than lower parel, wants to export rifles to us.
    If private tata etc. were given a free hand, we would be exporting Arms all over by now.
    We got new defence minister flies all the way to france to Tilak/ Break coconuts for the new jet. Minster before flies to Border so she can teach Chinese troops how to Namaste. They sure like to waste taxpayers money.
    Only defence minister we ever had that understood Tech.details was.
    Late Mr.Parrikar
    Dont know why Modi is scared of closing all this Blood sucking PSUs
    Producing garbage for our Armed force Person.

  5. Shocking comments. Most unfair. Development phase was tough but we got through. Now, hundreds of pilots are happily flying the ALH right up to the top of the glaciers. The ALH inspired me and a couple of us to push a combat variant, the LCH. It is bound to succeed.
    I would urge HAL and the Indian Aeronautics as a whole to ignore these na(v)y sayers and keep going. The Nation depends on you.

  6. HAL must learn to design and build the engines for ALH, LUH, LCH. That’s where the technology is, that’s where we must prove our so called talented engineers and it is on the engines that all the Forex is guzzled aftermarket. Give Safran a run for its money. What CNS said was apt. There is the need to create a parallel HAL in the private sector and HAL must become the mentor to Indian Aerospace by doing real cutting edge technology stuff.

    Contempt in HAL spokespersons words explain it all. One is a retired and respected Naval chief and the other an accomplished Naval test pilots, both have experienced it all. Not a word from them is an exaggeration, albeit frustration and angry outburst.
    While I would be happiest to see for HAL built ALH for NUH program. My issue is with the deeper malaise that is tearing the nation apart – even jeopardising its self reliance march.
    It is the situation that has arisen due to a ORGANISATIONAL DEFECT (deliberate ?) of placing DPSU, DRDO, OFB under the same ministry as the end users -The Services!
    Wasn’t Gen VKSingh bribery allegation also about this – a fertile breeding ground for corruption, inefficiency, nepotism and ZERO accountability.
    The picture of PSUs presenting cheque to RM every financial year is a sore to the eyes of those who know that it also bears the price of SILENCING THE VOICE OF SERVING.
    Why else would retired persons opinions pinch Mr Sutar where it hurts ? Even Rahul will rush to his rescue – to patronise.
    The debate must continue even as I stand for ATMANIRBHAR BHARAT.

  8. 100% disinvestment of HAL is in national interest. HAL should be professionally run by professional management with full accountability as any commercial aerospace company is run today.

  9. SuchindranathAiyerS

    Former Admiral Arun Prakash, calls a bloody spade (Bharath Sarkar ki Sampathi: HAL) A mere spade:

  10. THere needs to be a 3 or 4 way discussion on this, between HAL, Navy, independent Accident investigation board, civilian and foreign customer experts. If not it will degenerate in confrontation and power struggle with HAL asserting its expertise when no one but everyone together is an expert in solving this kind of problems.

    THis is however very typical of government military structures, ie. to have subordinate views (in this case the Navy) dismissed. In matters of tragedies like this no one is above the law and everyone can be a victim no matter the status. Will it take a HAL executive to crash and die in this thing to fix this evil withing bureaucracy? It really should not come to that.

  11. To Gopal Sutar of HAL ……you didn’t promise anything but you very well know basic requirements of a Navy Helicopter or was your team trying to built an helicopter that can just fly. According to you “automatic blade folding was never promised or attempted on ALH”, if so, what was your team developing as a Navy variant? You just broadcasted the fact that you wanted to put up a technologically incompetent helicopter and wanted the Navy’s buy in.
    Did you and your team not know what a Navy variant looked liked at least by trying to finding what the other Navy’s have inducted?
    At least spare sometime and have a look at what other countries are developing and then draw a comparison on what we should be offering our navy.
    Lethargy is a very soft vocabulary that’s been used by Admiral Prakash. You all should tried in a court for wasting public money, importantly many precious years and should be heavily penalised for making substandard helicopters for the Navy. If you didn’t know what a Navy variant of the Helicopter should look like then that is deplorable. Find another job and save the nation.

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